Chevrolet — The Man Who Sold His Name

Author: Jason / Date: August 8, 2022 / Tags: Chevrolet

Chevrolet — The Man Who Sold His Name

( – Chevrolet may be one of the biggest and best-selling names in the automotive industry, but it wasn’t always that way. Every company has an origin story, but this isn’t Chevy’s. Instead, this is the tragic story of Louis Chevrolet, co-founder of the car company of the same name. 

Born in Switzerland on Christmas day in 1878, Chevrolet was one of seven children. After his family moved to France in 1887, the young teen got a job at a commercial transport company and took up bicycle racing. Near the end of 1898, full of ambition, the young man left his parents’ home, headed to Paris, where he became a mechanic, and set aside earnings to travel to America. 

In 1900, Chevrolet finally made it to the West, working as a chauffeur in Canada before making his way to New York to work with William Walter, who was also Swiss. The aspiring mechanic then worked for the American arm of French automobile manufacturer De Dion-Bouton. A year later, his family joined him in the US after his father’s death. 

Chevrolet joined Fiat in 1905 and broke the one-mile record with a time of 52.8 seconds. The following year he moved to Philadelphia and helped design a front-wheel drive for renowned engineer and inventor Walter Christie. The talented mechanic then partnered with William Durant, founder of GM, to launch the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911. 

Chevrolet’s luck quickly ran out after he argued with Durant about the company’s direction and sold his stake in 1914. The ambitious man founded the Frontenac Motor Corporation and spent the next few years building and racing cars, taking odd jobs along the way with other car companies. 

After suffering a series of business failures, the aging designer moved to Detroit, where he worked as a simple mechanic at GM’s Chevrolet Motor Division before health issues forced his retirement. Louis Chevrolet died in 1941 at 63 years old with no money to pay his medical expenses. He’s buried in Indianapolis at the Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery. 

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